Year in Review: Queens’ top stories from November 2022

City Council votes to approve massive $2 billion Innovation QNS project in Astoria

With 2023 fast approaching, QNS is looking back at the top stories throughout 2022.

Below are some of our top stories from the month of November, including the City Council approving the $2 billion Innovation QNS project, three guilty pleas in a towing scheme, a triple homicide in Springfield Gardens and a feature on a Queens College student who helped develop software for NASA.

City Council votes to approve massive $2 billion Innovation QNS project in Astoria

Innovation QNS
The City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 22, voted to approve the Innovation QNS project in Astoria. (Rendering courtesy of Innovation QNS)

The developers behind the $2 billion Innovation QNS megaproject got the green light to remake a five-block area of southeast Astoria after the full City Council voted to approve the rezoning applications 46-1 on Nov. 22.

When the shovels hit the ground on the largest private affordable housing project in Queens history, it will be a far different project than the one the developers drew up a half-decade ago.

In order to gain the support of Councilwoman Julie Won, the Innovation QNS team — Silverstein Properties, BedRock and Kaufman Astoria Studios — agreed to surrender office and community space to create an additional 299 affordable housing units. Their “exhaustive negotiations” with Won, Speaker Adrienne Adams, and the mayor’s office yielded more than double the number of affordable units that were originally offered, as well as an unprecedented package of community benefits.

In remarks prior to the final vote, many of her colleagues praised Won for standing her ground after Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Mayor Eric Adams announced their support for the project after the developers offered 40% affordability.

The final approved proposal has 45% affordability. Richards praised Won for her “fierce advocacy on behalf of her constituents” to ensure Astoria families benefit the most.

The project will now head to the mayor’s office for final approval in the city’s arduous public review process that he vowed to address in the near future.

Former cops plead guilty to running a towing scheme out of the 107th Precinct in Fresh Meadows

Three retired cops who were assigned to the 107th Precinct in Fresh Meadows pleaded guilty to running a tow truck bribery scheme while they were on the job. (QNS/File)

Three former police officers pleaded guilty to running an illegal towing out of the 107th Precinct in Fresh Meadows.

James Davniero, 43, of Bayside, pleaded guilty on Nov. 17 to conspiring to participate in a scheme to steer vehicles damaged in collisions to a licensed tow trucking and automobile repair company in contravention of the NYPD’s Directed Accident Response Program (DARP), in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes.

Former NYPD officers Michael Oerri, 33, of East Islip, Long Island, and Osma Giancarlo, 40, of Deer Park, Long Island, pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in the scheme on Nov. 16.

“These three officers abused the public’s trust and disgraced their NYPD badges by lining their pockets with bribes,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “This office will continue working closely with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute corruption by those who are sworn to enforce and uphold the law.”

Women found stabbed to death in Springfield Gardens home: NYPD

Police investigate the scene after three women were found stabbed to death inside a Springfield Gardens home on Friday, Nov. 18. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

Three women were found stabbed to death inside of their Springfield Garden home on Nov. 18, the NYPD reports.

Homicide detectives from the 105th Precinct in Queens Village investigated the crime scene at a house located at 146-39 182 St., where a home health aid made the gruesome discovery at around 10:40 a.m.

The victims — ages 68, 47 and 26 — were found unconscious with stab wounds to their necks and apparent trauma to the bodies. EMS responded to the location and pronounced the three women dead on site. The women were later identified as the grandmother and two aunts of the suspect.

Queens College student helps develop software for NASA spacecraft mission to the moon

Queens College student Umar Kagzi helped develop software for NASA’s Artemis I spacecraft mission to the moon. (Photo courtesy of Queens College)

Queens College senior who helped develop software for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Artemis I spacecraft mission to the moon was invited to the scheduled launch that occurred on Nov. 14.

Flushing resident Umar Kagzi, a computer science major, was always interested in the software side of things in space.

Kagzi first approached NASA in spring of 2021, hoping to win one of its highly competitive internships. He was awarded a paid internship by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement, where he worked remotely that summer as a software engineering intern with the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

He and his team had less than two months to develop software for organizing a multimillion-dollar NASA competition called the Deep Space Food Challenge.

“The application we made was used for the official competition and assisted in the grading of hundreds of applications from around the world,” Kagzi said. “The fact that we were able to complete such a sophisticated application in this short timeframe was an astounding achievement and one of the best engineering projects I’ve ever worked on!”

Kagzi’s work on the Artemis I project led to a second remote internship that fall with the Space Flight Software Development team, where he was able to help write test flight software for the Space Launch System–Artemis Program.